Art 44 lays down a very significant directive principle of state policy- “State shall endeavour to secure for its citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. However, although directive principles are guiding stars of our constitution, they are not enforceable in court.
Citizens of India are governed by a variety of personal laws in matters of marriage, divorce, succession etc. Now, the question that arises is ‘Why can’t Indians stand on an equal footing in civil matters like marriage, divorce etc even after 68 years of independence? It is absolutely absurd to find that polygamy (the practice of a man to have more than one wife at a time) is legal amongst Muslims but an offence amongst other religious communities.
Uniform civil code is the only way to ensure that everyone has progressive standards of law to abide by equality in standards of justice. It is necessary to have a common code of law wherein all the traditions are harmonised in consonance with the modern times and applied uniformly to each and every Indian.
Judiciary has time and again given a clear indication to the legislature that uniform civil code is the need of the hour. There are several case laws to consolidate and support this argument.
In Jordan Diengheh v S.S. Chopra case the issue of different divorce laws under different religions was addressed and analysed. A Christian lady has married a Sikh man under Christian Marriage Act 1872. A few years later she had filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage and judicial separation under Indian Divorce Act.
However, a single bench of HC rejected this prayer of nullity of marriage and granted judicial separation. The division bench affirmed this decision on appeal. On special leave to appeal SC analysed that divorce laws under all the personal laws are far from uniform. The differences among the couple were irreconcilable but due to lack of required provisions for grant of divorce in Indian Divorce Act, the couple had no choice but to continue the meaningless marriage. The court once again observed this as a case that focused on the compulsive need of UCC. There was a need to consider mutual consent as a ground of divorce in all divorce acts in order to provide for a way out to such unhappy couples. Mutual consent was inserted as a ground of divorce in Indian Divorce Act in 2001.
Whenever UCC is discussed the case that remains is the Shah Bano case. The Supreme Court had and very rightly given the decision that Shah Bano was entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of CrPc. But subject to the growing protests from the Muslim community this decision had to be struck down.
However, the depressing part is that the debate on UCC has got trapped in politics. Instead of reaching out to a consensus, it has become a blame game played by different political parties.
As observed by Supreme court in Sarla Mudgal’s case, the implementation of Uniform Civil Code is imperative for the protection of the oppressed and the helpless women, who are suffering only and only in the name of religion. There is no logical connection between religion and personal law in a civilised society. Years after the Shah Bano case, the case that came to the picture was the Shayara Banu case. In 2015, she was divorced by her husband who gave her triple talaq for no such justifiable reasons. She was tortured relentlessly and in her entire married life tolerated this torture just due to the fear of being “triple talaqued” by her husband. But at last her fears came true.
In 1954, when the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was asked as to why UCC hasn’t been implemented yet, he replied that the time is not ripe to make it come to force. It is rather interesting to note that today even after 68 years of independence the time does not seem to be ripe. How long are we going to wait for such numerous Shah Banos or Shayra Banus or Sarla Mudgars to suffer????
Therefore, the time has arrived that we adopt one nation one statute policy. If the same law of contract or torts applies to a Hindu or Muslim, why not the same law of marriage?
Hence top here with this I stop my pen just with the hope that we all rise above politics and lead India towards a better nation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Krupa Thakkar is currently pursuing BLS LLB from Government Law College, Mumbai. She is presently in her second year. Always eager to learn new things, she keeps herself updated with happenings around the world. Though not an extrovert, she makes sure that she performs the best whenever she is allotted any task.